How professional Interim Managers can boost leadership teams

During the pandemic, strong and effective leadership has never been so important. But what’s next for leadership in a post pandemic world? Is the ‘war-time’ leadership we have built relevant during a recovery period where transformation and growth are the primary goal? And could experienced interims help organisations bolster post-Covid leadership?

As companies pivot once again and build a new focus and strategy, the question of leadership and what is required from leadership is inevitable. During the pandemic, organisations became leaner, both by design and reactively due to market impacts. The inevitable outcome is that management gaps have been exposed, especially around middle management. Cost reduction, organisational redesign, and strategic shifts have meant that business leadership both at the senior and lower levels has become strained and disjointed at times. Remote working has added to this disconnect.

Furthermore, the strain brought on companies and their personnel by Covid is starting to show signs of driving an increased number of executives to retirement once ‘normality’ resumes. This, combined with any number of ‘pent up’ resignations (i.e. those who would have resigned over the last fourteen months but instead waited for a more stable market) is likely to result in a ‘tidal wave’ of departures that could hit organisations hard. Furthermore, Critical Eye recently found that 87% of people within organisations surveyed felt that their CEOs would leave or change post pandemic, driving further complexity and uncertainty.

Norman Broadbent are anticipating a significant level of ‘churn’ at the top table. This historically trickles down through the company bringing more change be that around transformation, growth, M&A, or – more negatively – attrition.

Where does the interim and any transformation process fit into these changes?

In any period of flux and change the use of interim executives and leaders increases, but it doesn’t have to be just a ‘bridging’ exercise. The objectivity and impartiality of an interim can bring stability and focus when an organisation is adapting to a new leadership team or embarking upon a new transformation programme.

In a post-pandemic world leadership will need to be different, however, it will also no doubt be some time before we understand exactly what businesses in our new ways of working require. As opposed to re-shaping an entire leadership board of experienced permanent individuals, a different way of enacting change that offers more flexibility could be truly additive. By supplementing executive boards and management teams with overqualified interim leaders not only will the organisation build-in adaptability, but it will also increase leadership capability with those who can advise and upskill incumbent teams.

Bringing in external advisors can help drive change across an organisation, take strain away from incumbent teams, and ensure the continuity of leadership coming out of the pandemic. This is important, as employees in many circumstances have grappled with uncertainty for the last 18 months, so stability is key in maintaining morale and engagement.

The HBR have identified a major paradox of Leadership – in order to really grasp success coming out of the Covid era leaders need to adapt and develop new skills and capabilities, very different to those which have seen them through the pandemic.  Interim executives and consultants would add significant value in this area, partnering with and upskilling leaders, using their extensive experience to build further capability internally and broaden strategic thinking within the C-suite.

Transformation and Change is a constant within business. Norman Broadbent has seen a significant increase in the pace, scope, and importance of transformation programmes in recent months as companies begin to plan for the future. It is fully recognised that leadership within change programmes can be the factor which makes or breaks them.

Board sponsorship is a must, but, when delivering change, now more than ever, is it important to win ‘hearts and minds’ of other senior stakeholders and middle management to bring them on the journey as opposed to forcing change upon them. Interim leadership can enhance this people-based approach and ensure cultural transformation occurs alongside wider process or technology change. Maintaining close relationships with management is vital – in our experience interims can deliver mentorship and development with incumbent employee’s, driving engagement and giving programmes an increased chance of success.

Leadership has been, and will continue to be, tested in the next twelve months. Organisations need to be agile and adaptive to what is still an uncertain landscape. The use of external expertise can help develop the internal capability of leaders, drive innovation, and business performance. Attrition and employee churn will be likely, and using people focused interims can help navigate this possibility, ensuring employees are engaged and led effectively out of the pandemic / survival mindset and back into growth / positivity.

If you’d like to hear more about Norman Broadbent Interim Management, or perhaps discuss how we may be able to help you and your leadership team, please contact Fraser Hunt via fraser.hunt@normanbroadbent.com for an initial confidential discussion.